Madrid Professors and Students Report Astrophysical Event

9/18/2009

Professors Raul and Carlos de la Fuente Marcos and students studying astronomy at the Madrid campus have observed a flash of light – or bright optical transient -- in a dwarf galaxy.

The professors and four students published their observations and analysis in the journal New Astronomy.

The article presents a number of possible explanations for the observed optical transient, with the authors saying that it is a possible orphan gamma ray burst, or GRB. 

Gamma ray bursts are brief astrophysical events, but the afterglow may last for extended periods of time. Some GRBs coincide with the collapse of a star.

Nova hunting

The observation was made using the Mons telescope of the European Northern Observatory in Tenerife. The Marcoses regularly take students on extended trips to the Canary Islands to conduct field work.

The students were engaged in a nova-hunting project that entailed periodic monitoring of the M32 galaxy, a satellite to the Andromeda galaxy, when the observation was made.

The observation was registered with the Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System.

Students K.M. McGoldrick, N. Chartofillis, G.N. Gómez Díez, and S. Píriz Bartivas contributed to the article, “MONS OT J004240.69+405142.0: An orphan GRB optical afterglow candidate in Andromeda?” New Astronomy, Volume 14, Issue 3, p. 214-220.

Astrophysics curriculum

Physics students may choose to specialize in the Physics-Astrophysics track which requires a trip to the Madrid Campus.

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